Sunday, April 19, 2015


Add to Google Reader or HomepageHave you ever wondered why, if you have an American or English book and you set it on a coffee table with the front cover showing, you can read the spine? But if you have a French book and you set it on a coffee table with the front cover up, the writing on the spine is upside down. Can anyone explain the idiosyncrasies of the French book press?

You know that it is spring in Vaison la Romaine when :

·         there are wonderfully sweet strawberries from Carpentras
·         there are spring melons – about the size of a soft ball – but with enough sweet flavor to fill a room
·         the price of asparagus drops to a point where it is affordable (it started at 12€ per kilo or about $6 per pound. It is now under $2.00 per pound).
·         the Tuesday market is almost at grid-lock if you shop after 9:30 AM.
·         when walking around the village or sitting in one of the cafés, one hears almost as much Dutch and English as French (lots of tourists!)

Miscommunication. On Tuesday, we saw that one of the cafés was having a “Cajun/Creole” night with live music. Right below the line about live music was the word: “Jambalaya”. We made reservations and showed up at the appropriate hour. When the waiter finally came to take our order, we said we wanted jambalaya. The waiter looked confused and asked: “Quoi? Vous voulez quoi?” (What? What do you want?) We repeated “Jambalaya” and he started looking irritated. We said that the word “Jambalaya” was on the center of the menu board in front of the café. He gave us his best French shrug (implying that he didn’t know and could care less) and then asked again what we wanted from the menu. We couldn’t let it go and asked if “Jambalaya” was the name of the group that was playing. (Another shrug) We asked for a pitcher of wine and said to bring the wine and we would then order from the menu. By the way, the two musicians who made up the group called “Jambalaya” did a lot of covers of American songs – only two of which were Cajun… 

Monday, April 6, 2015

The end of an era

Add to Google Reader or HomepageAfter seven years of being part of Vaison’s foot traffic, we took the plunge and bought a used car. Our newer-than-our-Lansing-car is a 2010 Peugeot 207, diesel engine, manual transmission.

While it has been seven years that we have not owned a car in France, we have not been deprived of transportation. Thanks to the kindness of good friends who have shared theirs with us, we have been able to use a car when needed/wanted or go to the “Super U” grocery and rent one. On the other hand, I do not expect that having a car is going to decrease my walking in the village. I still plan to get my 12,000 steps every day.

Buying a car is one of my least favorite activities. In fact, the only time that I got a good deal on a car was when I did not want to buy one and the only time that I enjoyed buying a vehicle was when I bought my ’50 Chevy pickup.

We had started our search before going to Spain. We had stopped at the Peugeot dealer in Vaison and told the manager what we were looking for. He said that his assistant would search the internet and give us a call. Three weeks later and no calls from the dealership, it seemed the dealer did not care about finding us a car. Some have told us that their lack of initiative is normal in France. Normal or not, we were surprised.

We expanded our search and started looking for used cars on “” and visiting other car lots. Ellen saw a model (a small Subaru) online that she liked and we went to look at it. Our friends came with us and since Allan is tall, we had him test out riding in the back seat (for knee space as well as head space). The Subaru ‘Justy’ was small, with a three-cylinder gas engine. Ellen had trouble shifting the manual transmission and the ride was bouncy. It might have been a good car for the village but not for long trips. We noticed a Peugeot on the lot and liked it. There is plenty of space in the passenger compartment and a large trunk. Since diesel is cheaper in France and much more efficient than gasoline, we were pleased with the engine.

The process of registering a car in France involves getting “la carte grise” (the gray card) which you affix to the windshield. You don’t have to change license plates as, since 2009, the license plate stays with the car, not the owner. You can drive with an American driver’s license. Insurance is required. You must also keep a fluorescent green vest and a warning triangle in the car. (You must wear the vest and place the warning triangle to alert on-coming traffic if you have to repair your car alongside the road.)

Now that the car is parked outside of our apartment building, I think I hear it calling to us saying: “Let’s go to Nyons and see Catherine or to that restaurant in the next village that you have heard so much about or the chateau in Grignan or… You now have wheels!” I know we will answer the call. Watch out, Provence. Here we come!